REVIEW – Microids is like a dirty, old window: you can look out but you can sense the age of it. Now, the vision is beautiful as the game is based on Agatha Christie’s book. Microids published Anuman’s game, and I’m glad that they have done so.
It was an ordinary morning for Hercule Poirot and his good old friend, Arthur Hastings when suddenly, a letter arrives, changing the next few months for both men. A private letter to the Belgian detective by A.B.C. Poirot and Hastings are in for a long investigation!
The game starts to get slowly its gears going at the first crime scene. By this point, you will see how The ABC Murders uses an attractive cel-shaded graphical style, which can be both colorful, happy and dark, depressive at the same time; it reminded me of Telltale’s art style, but it’s different. Until then – unless you skip the dialogue per each line (?) -, you will get a taste of the voice acting. You might say that Poirot’s voice is annoying because of his accent, but don’t forget: English is not his first language (you can switch to French if you want to, though), so he’s bound to have an accent. I’m okay with his pronunciation.
Let me talk about the gameplay. You can choose from multiple options in dialogues. Most of the time, the story will continue, you will just not get the maximum amount of ego points. The maximum is 600, but you can’t get that much if you play the game blind – these points are just for trophies. If you ask the proper questions, you will get more points – the game helps you by displaying the current emotion of the character you talk to. With good choices, you can quickly push them towards being sincere to you.
Poirot automatically writes down key information about the characters in his notebook, where you can find them in bullet points. The exclamation point shows the objectives you must do, and the third, lowest option has the „Little grey cells”. The brain cells will be used more towards the end of your investigation: you will have to answer certain questions by selecting the correct information to proceed with the case. It sounds a little hard but believe me; it isn’t. The inventory is also displayed at the bottom of the screen: if you have a few items, you can quickly get them used. This system is intuitive and easy-to-use. I like it.
The gameplay also has two more important segments: Observation and Thinking. In Observation, you check out characters or areas of the crime scene. With people, you have to find three things that get you how the characters currently feel. As an example, I’d bring up the first Observation in the game where you look at Chief Inspector Japp. His hat proudly tipped on the back of his head, slight smile – he feels good and confident. Make sure to not get caught, as it will get you a warning, making you wait for a few seconds to try again. Thinking is a little different. You’ll have items to dissolve to get clues. Think of something like opening a clock – you slowly take piece after piece until you get that sheet of paper for example.
There’s also Reconstruction: this event happens at the end of every crime scene where Poirot and Hastings piece together how the murder happened. If you fail, don’t worry, you can try again immediately.
ABC Murders throws trophies at you at every possible corner. You can get one for almost every small thing, even if Poirot makes a huge mistake. Speaking of mistakes, this is one of the main issues of the game: you can’t mess up that much to get a Game Over screen. In fact, during my playthrough, I never saw one. Perhaps there’s no Game Over at all? The game doesn’t stop holding your hand. In case you get stuck, you can just go to the Pause menu and pick the Use a clue option. In Thinking, this progresses the puzzle by one step and outside of it, Poirot quickly walks to the location and gets you the item you were looking for. (By the way, Poirot walks quite slowly by default.) It would be alright if this help was limited… but it isn’t! It recharges after around two minutes or so every time.
So you will investigate until you get to a point – depending on a choice just before this scene happens -, where you can get the murderer or not. He/she won’t be the person you would originally think! I’m not sure if you can mess this up, as after the story ended, the game said it’s 100% (which is a lie, I had 451 ego points out of 600…). I had to start completely over. Oh yeah? Too bad the replayability is almost entirely lacking. There’s no alternative,
There’s no alternative, ABC Murders is based on the book, it’s not a sequel or a remake. When the cuffs land on the criminal’s hands, the game ends. Period. According to the game, if you imitate Poirot’s style (like using the mirrors at all locations), you will get more ego points.
While I think the game has great ambiance and audiovisuals (the music is also great, although there should have been more than one piece for the Thinking segments), there’s still one thing I have to bring up as a negative. The ABC Murders is ridiculously expensive. Usually, we don’t mention pricing as a factor, but the price is 35 British Pounds and as the game released on the US Store today, it’s 40 bucks in North America.
My boss at this site said he saw a game for around 20-25 dollars in the same genre. That’s the problem! I beat ABC Murders in about 6.5 hours, and the game costs 40 dollars. With this money, you can go to the Store and get a certain Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments and still have spare change!
Poirot is worth a buy but not for this price. I think Sony will give this out as a free game for PS Plus subscribers (unless they start to hand decent AAA titles) – however, if ABC Murders drops to 20-25 dollars, it’s worth a buy. The story is excellent, and it represents 1930’s England nicely. You can either hate or love Poirot, but you can’t take one thing away from him: he has become a historical detective. I hope ABC Murders will be a starting point of a series for Microids and Anuman so that they can provide more Agatha Christie games. I’d appreciate that.
+ Decent audiovisuals
+ If you don’t use help, you might take 8 hours to beat it
+ Poirot on the PS4. Finally!
– Way too expensive
– No way to mess up terribly
– Lack of replayability
Developer: Anuman Interactive
Genre: Point and click, investigation
Release date: February 4, 2016 (EU), February 23, 2016 (US)